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Dunne boycotts China trade trip over Tibet

New Zealand Herald, Auckland

Dunne boycotts China trade trip over Tibet

28 March 2008

United Future leader Peter Dunne has turned down a trip to China for the free trade deal signing to protest the treatment of Tibetan people.

Mr Dunne said the Government offered him a place on the trip to accompany Prime Minister Helen Clark to Beijing next month to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

"We support the FTA because we believe it is in the best long-term interests of New Zealand," he said.

"At the same time, we believe it is entirely proper to make our views publicly known about the Chinese government’s bloody crackdown on its Tibetan citizens."

Mr Dunne said New Zealand’s good relationship with China provided an opportunity to speak out.

"United Future believes New Zealand’s closer relationship with China because of the FTA, which has huge benefits for China, gives us a privileged position from which we can comment forcefully on China’s human rights record," Mr Dunne said.

Mr Dunne, who is Revenue Minister, also supports Taiwan and thinks New Zealand should recognise it.

Chinese authorities today said calm had been restored since an anti-Chinese uprising erupted in the Tibetan capital two weeks ago. China says its security forces acted with restraint and that 19 people died at the hands of Tibetan mobs during the unrest.

But the Tibetan government-in-exile says 140 died in Lhasa and elsewhere, most of them Tibetan victims of security forces, arousing international protest soon before the Beijing Olympics.

Earlier this week United State President George W Bush telephoned Chinese leader Hu Jintao to strongly underline his concern over the bloody unrest.

The New Zealand Parliament has supported a government statement of concern about the situation in Tibet, that called on Chinese authorities to react "carefully and proportionately" to the recent protests in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa.